Friday, June 18, 2010

Do you have to taste the Kiddush wine?

Today is the 6th day of Tamuz, 5770

You are listening to the Kiddush with the intention of being included in the Mitzvah. At the end of the Kiddush the Mekaddesh (the person that recites the Kiddush on behalf of everyone) drinks from the wine. Do you have to taste a little bit of that wine too?

The answer is a good example of Halakha vs. Minhag.

HALAKHA: Unlike the Mekkadesh who must drink a minimum quantity (one cheek!) your obligation for the Kiddush is completely fulfilled by listening and being included in the Mekaddesh’s intention, even if you don’t taste from the wine.

Still, there are different traditions or MINHAGUIM:

The general Sephardic tradition is that each family member would sip from the same cup the father or grandfather just said the Kiddush on, as a sign of Chibub Mitzva (affection for the just performed Mitzvah ) and respect for the elders .

In any case, you don’t need to drink any significant amount, a little sip is enough.

According to another tradition, not everyone drinks from the same cup, but the Mekaddesh pours from his cup into everyone else’s cups. This is also recommended when you have non-family guest. Again, a little sip is enough.

Another tradition is that everyone has his own cup with his own wine (ROSH)

Today there is a special set ‘Kiddush wine fountain’ that allow to comply with these two last traditions simultaneously! .

Thursday, June 17, 2010

LASHON HARA: Avoiding Lashon haRa by giving the benefit of the doubt.

Today is the 5th day of Tamuz, 5770

The Torah instructs us to judge people giving them the benefit of the doubt (see last week's HOTD). By doing this we fulfill a very important Mitzva and we stop the root of Lashon haRa.

Illustration: A Rabbi is giving a speech. In the last row Mr. A. a respected member of the community is seating with a stranger. They seem to be good friends. While the rabbi is speaking, he notices that the two of them don't stop talking. The rabbi is a little upset. The talking continues. Actually every time the rabbi says something, Mr. A. talks without even trying to hide it! The Rabbi considers stopping his speech and demand from Mr. A. to be silent, but he knows this will greatly embarrass Mr. A. in public and decides to continue. You can see in the Rabbi's face that he is very irritated.

As soon as he finishes his speech he goes to reprimand Mr. A for his disrespect. To the Rabbi’s surprise Mr. A.smiles at him and before the Rabbi can pronounce a word Mr. A. says “Dear rabbi, great speech! Let me introduce you to my cousin, Gerard. He is from France and he does not speak a word of English. But I translated to him your whole speech!!!!”.

Train yourself to give the benefit of the doubt!


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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What is a Minhag (tradition)?

Today is the 4th day of Tamuz, 5770

In virtually every Halakhic subject there are very often some controversies as to what the final application of the law is. The origin of these controversies is not the same for every case. Most of the time, they depend on different interpretations not of the Biblical commandment but of the Talmudic determinations.

Illustration: The Talmud said that between eating meat and dairy one should wait “from one meal to the next meal”. Most rabbis interpreted this Talmudic statement as related to ‘time’: after eating meat, one has to wait the ‘time’ that normally one waits from one meal to the next: 6 hours (Rashi, Rambam). Other rabbis interpreted ‘next meal’, literally: you cannot have meat and diary on the same meal, like beef and a dairy dessert, but you don’t need to wait full six hours (Tosafot).

In this context, Minhag means the interpretation each community follows in the case of Halakhic controversy. Both are totally valid, as they don’t refer to the core case (the prohibition of eating together meat and milk) but to the details of it.

In the area of Minhaguim, as long as a community follows a valid Halakhic opinion, even if it comes from a minority opinion, it is a valid Minhag.


BH, in the next HOTD about Kashrut I will bring some examples of Minhaguim in this area.

By popular demand: link to reliable Kashrut symbols: .

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Eloke Ya’akob. The God of our father Jacob.

Today is the 3rd of Tamuz 5770

Jacob most traumatic life experiences revolved around deception. His brother Esav was a ‘master’ of deception. Esav was an accomplished hunter, as our rabbis explained, because he mastered the art of deceiving animals, hiding his presence by acting and looking like them. Esav was also a talented deceiver of humans. He was able to make his own father, Yitzchak, believe that he, Esav was a righteous man and that he –and not Jacob- would deserve to be appointed as Yitzchak’s (and Abraham’s) successor. In this extreme circumstances Jacob ended up deceiving his deceived father…. Jacob was forced by his mother to become Esav/deceiver in order to make things right…

Still, and although he did what he did on behalf of his mother, Jacob paid a very high price for his desperate act. Later on, as our rabbis explained, he himself was deceived twice by his father in law Laban in similar circumstances. Deception as a victim or a performer, characterized Jacob’s first part of his life.

But then, he fought with an angel. Who was this angel? Our rabbis said: saro shel Esav. Elie Wiesel interpreted the struggle between Jacob and the angel as a struggle between Jacob and himself (or, from a more Freudian approach: between Jacob and the Esav/deceiver within him). Defeating the angel (the personality of –saro shel- Esav, that he was forced to adopt) allowed Yaakov to make a turning point in his life and become ish emet, a man of truth.

Jacob reminds us the value of repentance, our duty to change and our bad incorporated habits and the love for truth.


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Monday, June 14, 2010

The power is at the tip of your fingers. Ask Uri Lander!

Today is the 2nd day of Tamuz 5770

Uri Lander is 21 or 22 years old. He was born in Uruguay but now lives in Israel. A few weeks ago he checked his Facebook account before going to sleep. Uri found a new group "Yo Tambien Odio Los Judios" ("I also hate the Jews").

Unfortunately, anti-Semitism – or the more politically correct anti- Israel movement- is so tolerated by us today that we got tragically ‘used’ to see this kind of expressions and we do nothing about it. But Uri -as his father, Dr Eduardo Lander proudly described to me- decided to take “immediate action”. Uri understood that if the Web is such a powerful tool to spread hatred it must work both ways. We should be able to use Internet also to demand justice!

Uri created a new Facebook group:

24 HORAS para que Facebook borre el grupo "YO TAMBIÉN ODIO A LOS JUDÍOS" (we give 24 hours for Facebook to delete the group "I also hate the Jews") threatening Facebook that otherwise all of Uri's new group members will close their Facebook accounts. Uri went to sleep. In the morning Uri checked his Facebook group and to his surprise he found out that the group had already 800 members…!!! In two days Uri’s group had 4,000 members and then it grew to 20,000. At that point Facebook finally closed the anti-Semitic group. Two weeks later, Uri’s group had 200,000 members. Most of them non Jews showing their sympathy for the Jewish people.

Uri made a change. And inspired a lot of people (including me) to use the Web as a vehicle for Israel advocacy.

Uri put together two important things: the power of the web and the ‘passion’ for Am Israel (Ahabat Israel) which today demands from all of us immediate action.

See the story of Uri’s Facebook group here: